Doctoral Dissertation Research: Assessing the Role of Geologic Framework on Barrier Island Geomorphology
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This doctoral dissertation research project will quantitatively assess how subsurface geology impacts the beach and dunes along the coast, thereby helping to improve contemporary models of barrier island evolution. The project will contribute to more accurate predictions of how beaches and dunes are likely to change in the future due to sea-level rise. Understanding the influence of the subsurface geology will enable coastal managers to mitigate damage to infrastructure in areas where the subsurface geology promotes rapid change in the beach and dunes. Project results therefore will enable officials of the National Park Service and other managers to manage coastal resources at Padre Island National Seashore and elsewhere for long-term environmental and economic viability. The project will provide valuable professional development experience for an undergraduate student, and the project data and findings will be synthesized into a new coastal geography course module designed to provide students with a better understanding of how the subsurface geology controls change along the coast. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career. Rising sea-level and extreme storms can significantly erode the coast, damaging buildings and roads. Dunes have the ability to absorb strong waves and elevated water levels during extreme storms, which means it is important that coastal managers understand how the dunes may change in the future. Subsurface geology may affect how the beach and dunes change, but this link has not been tested. This project is to quantify the role of subsurface geologic framework in barrier island development and evolution. The doctoral student will test the hypothesis that the subsurface geologic framework is a key driver of coastal geomorphology. He will collect and analyze geophysical data using a range of techniques, including ground-penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction, and sub-bottom profiling along the entire length of Padre Island National Seashore on the southern Texas coast. Sediment cores will be collected along the island to provide essential information to correlate with data gathered using other means. The modern beach and dune morphology will be extracted from coastal digital elevation models based on light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements. Wavelet decomposition and coherence analyses will be used to quantify the influence of the subsurface geology on beach and dune morphology.